On Wednesday, October 13, representatives from environmental, community, labor, and business groups and elected officials joined together in Albany to release a letter signed by over 600 organizations and businesses urging Governor Hochul and the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to issue a statewide moratorium on Proof-of-Work (PoW) Cryptocurrency mining until an environmental review is conducted. They gathered the same day as DEC’s hearing on the Title-V air quality permit for the Greenidge Generating Station, a current cryptocurrency mining operation, to urge the Hochul administration to deny the permit.
The letter, sent by a diverse representation of interests, stated, “These ‘mining’ activities, particularly Proof-of-Work cryptocurrency mining, use enormous amounts of energy to power the computers needed to conduct business — should this activity expand in New York, it could drastically undermine New York’s climate goals established under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.”
Proof-of-Work Cryptocurrency is a type of cryptocurrency, commonly used in Bitcoin, that is the most energy intensive of the various types of cryptocurrency mining. Reporting has uncovered that, globally, this practice consumes more power than some entire countries.
The Greenidge facility, based in the Finger Lakes region, is the first test case for how New York will approach Proof-of-Work cryptocurrency mining and its threat to New York’s climate goals, established under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). It is also a precedent-setting test case for the possible fate of other underutilized or decommissioned power plants across New York, making this a crucial test of Governor Hochul’s commitment to New York’s climate goals and moving the state off fossil fuels.
“We cannot meet our critically important Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goals to break our current dependency on fossil fuels if we are significantly increasing our total state energy consumption from fossil fuel sources,” said Assemblywoman Anna Kelles. “Allowing for growth in large scale cryptocurrency Proof-of-Work mining operations like Greenidge would do exactly that and seriously threaten our environmental goals. As Commissioner Seggos noted on September 8, 2021 when the draft permits were released, ‘Greenidge LLC has not shown compliance with NY’s climate law.’ We are calling on the DEC to uphold this preliminary finding and deny Greenidge’s application for air and acid rain permits. There are many forms of validation of cryptocurrencies and some of the most common use less than 1% of the energy used for PoW. New York can remain at the forefront of cryptocurrency technology and markets without jeopardizing our environment in the process by opening our doors to unnecessary cryptocurrency PoW mining. The DEC must set precedent and affirm that PoW mining is not aligned with our state environmental goals nor is a legitimate vehicle for equitable economic prosperity in our state.”
Assemblyman Steve Otis, Chair of the Assembly Science and Technology Committee said, “Business and governmental leaders in our country and around the world have recognized the threat that proof of work mining poses to meeting climate change and emissions goals. New York needs to take a closer look at this issue, including current permits, expansion of this activity, and our legal framework for regulating energy use, emissions, consumer and environmental issues. State agency review and the moratorium legislation are two ways we can give this issue the scrutiny it deserves.”
“Protecting the environment is a primary public health issue for 1199SEIU healthcare workers. On the front lines, we are dedicated to saving lives, healing, and promoting wellness. Environmental health is one of the keys to achieving those outcomes,” said Todd Hobler, Executive Vice President, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “With that in mind, 1199SEIU is a strong supporter of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, and we’re gravely concerned that Proof of Work Cryptocurrency Mining will undermine the goals established under that law. Furthermore, few jobs are created by this new cryptomining industry, with profits accruing to a few — yet, the environmental impact affects every one of us. We stand with those calling for a statewide moratorium and denial of permits for Greenidge and Fortistar.”
“Governor Hochul, we stand here today, united, as a diverse coalition of your constituents from around New York. We believe that this is THE top environmental issue facing our great state,” said Yvonne Taylor, Co-Founder and Vice President of Seneca Lake Guardian. “If you are to lead on climate and achieve our ambitious climate goals as laid out in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, you simply must address this industry, and you must begin by denying the Title-V permit for Greenidge.”
“The original Title V air permit for the Greenidge fracked gas plant was issued without any mention or analysis of Bitcoin mining or the environmental impacts that come with such operations. This needs to be remedied through DEC’s air permit renewal process,” said Roger Downs, conservation director for the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter. “If the gap in regulation for behind-the-meter Proof of work cryptocurrency operations is not closed by Governor Hochul, this kind of digital partnership could soon be an integral part of every power plant operating in NY — which could profoundly derail the state’s ability to comply with our climate goals.”
“The decision over Greenidge’s permit is an important test of Governor Hochul’s leadership on climate, and the science is very clear: She must pass this test,” said Eric Weltman, a Brooklyn-based senior organizer with Food & Water Watch. “As the devastation from Hurricane Ida tragically showed, our communities are at risk and our lives are at stake — and so we need Governor Hochul to stop this dangerous fracked gas project.”
“New York State’s Finger Lakes is one of the most exciting wine regions in the world right now, which has attracted tens of millions of dollars of investments by several of the best winemakers in Europe, California, and Argentina. I have covered the growth of the Finger Lakes wine industry for 25 years and the future is extremely bright for this world class wine region,” says Michael Warren Thomas of SavorLife.com in Rochester. “Unfortunately that future is at risk if massive power plants operating 24/7/365 like Greenidge can bypass the state’s climate laws, specifically the CLCPA. Governor Hochul has the responsibility to pause the frenzy to build out the Proof-of-Work Cryptocurrency industry in underutilized and mothballed power plants in NYS.”
“Governor Hochul faces an important decision for New York regarding energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining and New York’s climate goals — and it starts with the Greenidge Facility. Greenhouse gas emissions from Greenidge have been dramatically increasing, and will only continue to do so if the company expands their operations, as they have stated their plan to do,” said Liz Moran, New York Policy Advocate for Earthjustice. “We join hand in hand with residents of Seneca Lake and communities across the state in calling on the Governor to issue a statewide moratorium on cryptocurrency mining and to deny the Title-V permit for Greenidge.”